Sunday, February 8, 2009

Racial Reconciliation Sunday (SBC)

Today was the SBC's "Racial Reconciliation Sunday." While I don't often like topical sermons, our pastor did a great job of discussing race relations with our predominantly white church. "Those who don't love other races don't love . . . the Gospel, the cross, the church, evangelism, or Jesus himself. "

Jesus, an ethnic Jew who likely was olive complexioned, brown-eyed, and dark-haired, presented a Gospel that reconciled all men, not just Jews, to God. The Apostle Paul said that in the new self (the self that is in Christ), "there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Col 3:11) This Gospel, then, goes to all people, regardless of ethnicity. Revelation says that, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." (Rev 7:9) The picture of Heaven in John's vision is one of mixed ethnicities, a cross-section of all humanity that has been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, shed on the cross.

Our pastor said, and I agree, that if we believe these things to be true, our churches should better reflect this cross-section. The church, which presents such an open gospel, has had the notorious distinction of being the most segregated place in the world today. Shame on us.

What is even more shameful is that we have elected a bi-racial man to be president not through a push from the Church, but through a push from liberals. Barack Obama is not a believer. The abolition movement was largely spearheaded by Christians, equality was largely spearheaded by Christians. Some might say that desegregation was largely spearheaded by Christians. Why were we not the first to elect a black president (please do not understand me to be saying that conservative Christians should have voted for Barack Obama, I'm not and I didn't)? What has occurred in our churches to keep them largely segregated?

I do believe that reconciliation requires action. This action must be taken by whites and non-whites alike. This action can only occur within the church. Christians, live the Gospel out! Do you have friends of other races? If not, why not? Do you share the Gospel in different ethnic enclaves? If not, why not? I do not believe that whites must "owe" anyone anything, or that we should feel guilty as though we have blood on our hands. Whites (and non-whites) who are Christians should strive to live out the Gospel to people of other races not because of feelings of guilt for the actions of past generations but because of obedience to and love for Jesus Christ. The Christian life has much to do with getting out of personal comfort zones and living in obedience. Let's put our prejudices and our fears aside and seek the throne of God with our brothers.

An anecdote: I once had a conversation with a Caribbean black man about race relations. He was upset that there were so many white people and so few black people at the private, Christian, college we attended. His answer was to push for more "diversity." He wanted not only more people of other ethnicities, but he also wanted more theological perspectives represented in the classroom. He claimed that there was a "sea of white people" that made him feel segregated. He had swallowed a lie that said diversity trumps all other considerations. He was also very willing to institute programs to enforce this idea by forcing the college to pay for underprivileged, inner-city, ethnically-diverse students to attend.

My response to this man was that it mattered little if there was a sea of white, Asian, black, or Hispanic people, as long as proper theology was maintained. I also told him I did not care who I went to school with, as long as they had earned their way to attendance at the school. If underprivileged, inner-city, ethnically-diverse students were good students and earned scholarships to attend, I would be glad to work with them. I told him, however, that I would fight any measure to give people the education simply because they were of another color or of another economic background. There was no reason this man had to feel segregated as long as he was a believer; his brothers and sisters surrounded him on every side.

How can the missionary feel at home in another culture? Christ is our home, our blood, our new ethnicity, inherited upon conversion. We are given a new name and a new identity in him (Rev 2:17). As long as there are fellow believers of any ethnicity or background around us, we have family.

3 comments:

Timothy L. Decker said...

I had the SBC had this Sunday dedicated to this issue. What is funny is that I mentioned overcoming prejudices in my sermon as well.

For the past 2 months, I have been going through the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. What an amazing example of Jesus overcoming the Jew/Samaritan prejudice that existed! He did so in such a way that in vs. 40 the Samaritans were comfortable enough to ask Jesus to stay "with them" (notice the para with the dative indicating a very close association). Jesus virtually came along-side these people to the point where He was one of them for two whole days. What an example!

Timothy L. Decker said...

"I had the SBC had this Sunday dedicated to this issue."

Could I have been any more incoherent. LOL. What I meant to say was: I had no idea the SBC had this Sunday dedicated to this issue.

Steven Douglas said...

:)

Yes, an amazing example and an amazing God. We can certainly see the groundwork for the reconciling of all people to himself (2 Cor 5:11-21). We also see the breaking down of the Jewish/Gentile boundaries which will lead to Paul's admonishment to the Colossians (3:11-14).